Kashmir has always entranced visitors. From the Mughal emperors of the middle ages to the hippies of the ’60s, Kashmir has always had an enchantment. Now it has recovered from the separatist troubles of the 1990s and is returning to its former attraction especially for Indian visitors. In the heat of summer it is much cooler being at altitude beyond the Himalaya. Politically Kashmir is part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu to the south is largely Hindu, Kashmir is Muslim and Ladakh to the east is Buddhist.
The capital Srinagar in the Vale of Kashmir edges onto the beautiful Dal Lake, a wide expanse of still and cool water. Houseboats line artificial islands. These boats are extremely ornate, decorations are carved in scented wood and they are furnished with Kashmiri carpets and cushions. Such houseboats can accommodate up to eight people in single and double cabins. Each has its own cook and no comfort is left unprovided for.
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Kashmir is accessible by air and road. From 2020 Srinagar should be connected to the rest of the Indian railway system. By air Srinagar is 80 minutes from Delhi and you get to see the splendour below as you fly over the Himalaya. By road there are two routes. From Ladakh it’s generally a two day journey with an overnight stop in Kargil and then an exciting descent down the Zoji La (pass). From the south from Jammu (the nearest railhead) it is generally a day’s journey with passage via the almost 3km-long Jawahar Tunnel. (A note of caution here; don’t take photographs of or in the tunnel. I once had a roll of film seized and opened because it was believed that I had taken a photograph.) In clear weather both road journeys are spectacular.
Kashmir has its problems with independence fighters operating from Pakistan, but nowadays the resort town of Srinagar is generally held to be safe and tourism is returning.
While most visitors aim for Srinagar, Kashmir has other attractions. South of Kargil is the attractive Zanskar Valley. Its tiny capital is Padum that is more a village but this is a centre for trekking. Whereas the Kashmir Valley is Muslim, Zanskar is Buddhist.
The town of Pahalgam is about three hours by road from Sriniagar. While it could be a day trip, this place is more for the adventurous with trekking and river rafting on offer.
Gulmarg has been an important skiing centre since British times. A cable car whisks you up to 4,000m and the start of a 5km-long downhill ski run.